HEAD WINDS

The story to date: Chartered for what he supposes is a pleasure cruise, Johnny Akhorn finds his'yacht, the West by North,’ boarded by men he knows to be crooks. Later he comes to consciousness on Sentinel Island. Jessie Allen, the niece of the man who chartered Johnny’s yacht, rescues him in a small boat and reveals herself as a secret service operative. Together they go in search of the stolen ‘West by North’

BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR December 1 1926

HEAD WINDS

The story to date: Chartered for what he supposes is a pleasure cruise, Johnny Akhorn finds his'yacht, the West by North,’ boarded by men he knows to be crooks. Later he comes to consciousness on Sentinel Island. Jessie Allen, the niece of the man who chartered Johnny’s yacht, rescues him in a small boat and reveals herself as a secret service operative. Together they go in search of the stolen ‘West by North’

BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR December 1 1926

HEAD WINDS

BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR

The story to date: Chartered for what he supposes is a pleasure cruise, Johnny Akhorn finds his'yacht, the West by North,’ boarded by men he knows to be crooks. Later he comes to consciousness on Sentinel Island. Jessie Allen, the niece of the man who chartered Johnny’s yacht, rescues him in a small boat and reveals herself as a secret service operative. Together they go in search of the stolen ‘West by North’

(Conclusion)

HIDDEN BAY was a long run for a seven-knot boat. They left Alert Bay between six and seven in the evening. At five in the morning they hauled into Van Anda, a sleepy village on a long island that split the gulf a-twain, to pick up an apple-cheeked Irish constable.

When the midday pennant began to waver from the galley stovepipe the two boats, the lean government cruiser and the tubby fishing craft .Johnny had chartered, hauled around the end of that great island which chokes the mouth of Jerome Inlet and slowed down. Johnny had the steering wheel. He nosed the fish boat in among a maze of spraywashed rocks, barren little islets, down narrow passages where streaming keep warned of unseen shoals. Through a tortuous channel he worked his craft, the police boat’s nose hugging his stern, until he came at last to anchor in a snug bight.

A high mountain loomed over them. The shore was a ring of cliffs, with a notch like a window in the middle —out of which poured a waterfall that filled the cove with its murmur and the trees with a mist of spray.

The police launch drew alongside.

“I’ve been around this island plenty,” Harper remarked, “but I never got in here before. Takes some navigating, I’ll say. What you call this place? Where are we at, anyway?”

“We used to call it Peeka-boo Cove,” Johnny told him. “It has no chart name.

We’re about eight miles by water from Hidden Bay, but not more than two miles overland. There’s a waj up past the waterfall, and a blazed line that runs toward the head of the bay. I figured we’d better take our first look in from the blind side. Couple of us ought to take a run over as soon as we eat.”

“Right-o,” Harper assented.

“I’m coming, too,” Jess declared as they ate lunch.

Johnny merely nodded.

He would rather not have had her go, but he was sensible enough to keep that to himself. There was a quality of persistence, of determination, about this small person that was beginning to astonish him. And it was a quality he appreciated perhaps because of its rarity. Men and women in Johnny Akhorn’s experience were inclined to be the reverse of steadfast, even in little things.

All the way down the gulf they had talked at intervals. Most of it had been impersonal, detached; a curious contrast to the highly personal, rather emotionally charged atmosphere that always hitherto seemed to generate itself whenever they came together.

Somehow Johnny had got rid of that strange pain, that maddening sense of frustration, that had irked him at intervals ever since Jessie Allen had come into his life. It had seemed to him lately that she had come back merely to revive those old, passionate long-

ings and to mock at them. He knew now that she hadn’t. He had been thinking of himself as a more or less important figure in her personal concerns. And she had been thinking mostly of other things, of her job, of her pompous uncle who was a stuffed shirt, a false alarm, ostensibly a broker and a capitalist but in reality a dabbler in shady affairs that offered big profits.

Johnny smarted a little as a man must when he discovers that he is not the sun in a woman’s universe, but only a small, outlying satellite. Still, now he could accept without rancor the fact that as a man and a lover he

meant a little less than nothing to Jess. He abandoned his ancient grudge. If he meant very little to Jessie Allen in the domain of her emotions, other men, he began to perceive, meant even less. She was too damnably self-sufficient. Only it wasn’t a malicious or wilful selfsufficiency. She was simply quite sure of herself. Her own feet were stout enough to stand on. She didn’t feel the need of a prop, especially a masculine prop, he perceived.

She appealed to him as a good deal of an enigma; a petite and desirable enigma who might conceivably ask him to kiss her on a moonlight night because she liked him; and who could still quite calmly walk out of his life to follow her own road. And Johnny couldn’t understand a woman doing things like that. It made him regard her sometimes, as he did now, with a sort of wistful wonder. She was very close to him, at his elbow, and yet she was very far away in the sense that Johnny desired her to be near, and likely to stay there, he thought ruefully.

But none of this made him any the less keen for a sight of the West by I\orth and a chance to square accounts with Saunders and company. He was on his own ground now. He assumed leadership as by right, although he put it in the form of a suggestion.

“It strikes me,” he said, “that some one should get around to Whispering Pass. Suppose this gang is in Hidden Bay with the yacht? The tide is high, will be for some time. She can run that entrance any time for the next two or three hours.

“If we should happen to be spotted prowling around they’ll likely run. They aren’t fools enough to make a fight of it unless they’re cornered. One man with a rifle could stop ’em in that narrow entrance.”

“That’s reasonable,” Harper agreed. “But a police launch making anchor anywhere near the entrance to Hidden Bay would sure look suspicious to them.” “Send O’Connel,’’ Johnny suggested, “around with my fisherman. Leave your engineer to watch the launch here. Fish boats are common as gulls in these waters. You and I and Miss Allen can go across through the woods and take a look-

IT WAS done accordingly.

The fisherman and O’Connel chugged away. Each was well armed; both were Irish enough to welcome a scrap.

The other three got ashore. Johnny led the way. It was all familiar ground to him. He skirted the waterfall, bore up a hillside masked by dense thickets, out of which great cedars and rough-barked firs lifted their brown columnar trunks, spreading plumy tops a hundred and fifty feet above for the winds to sigh among.

After weeks afloat with hard decks underfoot, the uneasy shift of the sea, the scream of the gulls and the buffet of the westerly winds, it was pleasant to walk on earth, in soft, carpeting mosses, amid that cool shade and restful silence. In the depths of this virgin forest midsummer heat could not wither the tender green of delicate ferns nor dim the glossy brightness of the low salai.

All Johnny’s early love of the hills and woods came back to him with a surge. He gained the summit of a divide and stood drinking in the smells, staring thoughtfully across a far-spread westward basin where the woods lay like a giant’s carpet of green plush. About him there rose the sweetish odor of decaying vegetation mingled with a faint resinous smell exuded by the firs. Far beyond, the mainland ranges rose stark and grim, rocky knobs and spires, cliffs and granite pyramids and deep gorges, with here and there a bank of snow or a drifting bit of fleecy cloud. Johnny stared at it. Somehow it pleased him, soothed a vague unrest within him.

Forest and mountain and woodland smells were no great matters to Constable Harper. He glanced about, wiped the sweat off his face and lighted a cigarette. Jessie looked a long time at the distant hills, the glint of the sea showing through the timber. She broke off a bit of cedar, crumpled the green stuff in her hand and sniffed the fragrance. She moved a little nearer Johnny to look up at him and murmur, unheard by their companion.

“If we weren’t hunting big game I’d like to sit on this ridge all evening and just look my fill. Would you?

Does this sort of thing”—she made a quick inclusive gesture—“get you where you live, Johnny?”

He nodded. There was a momentary pang in the admission. He remembered that she used to say things like that. She fitted her moods to her surroundings, always with that spontaneous response to beauty. That was one of the reasons he had liked her so well, why he had missed her so much, why the sore spot had lingered.

From that point they dropped into a valley that ran to a lake out of which flowed the small stream whose outlet to the sea was almost by the threshold of Johnny’s old home. In half an hour more they were within gunshot of the Diace, and Johnny led them through a jungle of fern, huckleberry brush and young cedar to a knob well masked by trees, from whence they could look down on what they wished to see—the full reach of Hidden Bay, the old orchard, the weathered house and tumbledown outbuildings of split cedar.

The bay was empty of what Johnny Akhorn most desired to behold—his ship. But there were other items of interest. The West by Korth had been there. How otherwise would young Gage be on the beach, working with another man at a small, rude float of logs, obviously intended for a boat landing?

Smoke wavered blue from a new stove pipe on the kitchen roof. On a projecting ledge that fell sharp to dee Chinese, round cheeked, well dressed, his Celestial eyes shielded behind very Caucasian horn-rimmed glasses, sat fishing for rock cod. All this they gazed upon silently, themselves unseen, every detail of house, shore, men, brought near, magnified by Harper’s powerful glasses.

“There you are,” Johnny said at last. “Gage is almost a guarantee that the others will be back. They’ve got something on here.”

T wonder what?” Harper reflected. “‘Taint whiskey. Too complicated. Whiskey running’s simple.”

“That fat old Chinaman on the rock could tell us,” Jessie put in.

Harper was bending another look on him.

“I thought he looked familiar,” he said presently. “I know him now. That’s old Quong Lung, a Carral Street chop-suey-joint keeper. I’d say Quong ain’t here for his health. Them birds don’t take vacations.”

“Still, there’s no real reason why he shouldn’t be here,” Johnny hazarded.

“None in the world,” Harper agreed. “He belongs in British Columbia. It’s a free country. Just the same, old Quong didn’t come this far from town just to fish for rock cod. I’m kinda anxious to scout around this place a little more. Sort of get the lay of the land.

“Say, if you had a bunch of contraband stuff and wanted to keep it darned well under cover so you could slip in and out of here and take a load to distribute, where would you cache it, Akhorn? Suppose it was bulky? You

ought to know every boulder and gully for miles around this bay.”

Johnny looked off to the right. A queer sort of expression flitted over his face. He turned to Jess.

“When you were all ashore together the day the Fafnir laid over in Hidden Bay, did you by any chance tell them or show them the Cave of the Bats?”

Something in his look, his tone, perhaps his mere question made a faint flush rise in the girl’s cheeks. But she didn’t evade Johnny’s gaze.

“Yes. I showed Dewey where the creek flowed out.” “Why?” Johnny didn’t mean to ask that blunt question. It snapped out of him involuntarily.

“I don’t know. It just happened.”

Johnny swallowed hard. He had never even told his mother and sister about the Cave of the Bats. They were nervous women and underground caverns near their home would have made them uneasy. He had only discovered it himself a year or two before Jess came. And he had told Jess. More, he had taken her into that weird cavern. The first time he had kissed her was in that rather awesome gloom of the Cave of the Bats, sitting on a damp ledge with stalactites gleaming in the light of his flash lamp and the flutter of innumerable wings winnowing the dark places beyond, and she had shown Dewey Saunders the place.

Johnny grew hot—and then cold. After all, it didn’t matter.

“If they needed a perfect cache for anything,” he said a little absently, “the Cave of the Bats was made to order.”

“What’s the Cave of the Bats?” Harper pricked up his ears. “Where is it?”

“I’ll show you,” Johnny volunteered. “We better go careful, too. If they’ve got anything in there, they’ll be on the lookout most likely.”

He bore off to the right, moving stealthily as a hunting animal, through brush, ferns, over down logs, skirting the half-rotted stumps amid the tangle of woodland that had suffered primitive logging operations twenty years earlier. Jess came at his heels. Harper brought up the rear,

watchful, moving warily, making not the slightest sound After half an hour of careful, noiseless advance Johnny stopped on the edge of a thicket of young firs. A rocky bank pitched sharply down to a creek. Below them the flow ended, vanished underground in a jumble of broken, splintered rock. The ridge they stood on crossed the creek bed like a great dam.

JOHNNY waved for silence, turned toward the bay again, traversed a distance of three hundred yards. On the south slope of this small height of land the creek reappeared. It poured out of an opening like a small tunnel over a bed of gravel.

“You get in the stream,” Johnny whispered to Harper. “Takes you about to the knees. For about a hundred feet or so you have to walk stooped over quite a bit. Then you come out into the cave. It’s big inside, big as a church. You stay here. I’m going down to see if there are any tracks below.”

Harper nodded assent. Johnny dropped into the creek bottom among the ferns and brush. He did not linger there. When he came back he said:

“They’ve walked quite a path between there and the beach. Stuff’s all tramped down. I guess they’re using the cave, all right.”

“This’ll bear watching,” Harper said reflectively. “We overlook the bay from here, too.”

“There a better place a little back,” Johnny told him. “Over this way.” He retraced his steps a few yards and stole along the brushy top of the ridge which lifted directly over the Cave of the Bats. He wormed his way to a bare-rock patch fissured in the middle by a six-inch crack. Johnny lay down and put his ear to this. Jessie and the constable got down beside him. Their three faces were less than a foot apart.

“I hear something,” Harper whispered.

“I smell something,” Jess put her lips to Johnny’s ear. “Punk sticks. Joss-house smell.”

Johnny nodded.

“Chinks,” he muttered laconically. “Don’t surprise me.”

“It’s worth a thousand dollars a head to land ’em in the United States,” Jessie breathed.

“And the five hundred dollars head tax on them coming into British Columbia is an item to consider, too,” Harper grinned.

“Chinese and dope go together, somehow,” the girl said thoughtfully. “I see now why they had to have the yacht. The Albacore, of Hongkong, had more than rice for cargo. Chink smuggling and dope. That’s a bigmoney game.”

“Let’s get back into the heavy brush and figure out what we best do,” Johnny said. He sat up. Jess put her hand on his arm to raise herself from the prone position. She smiled at him, confidently, eagerly, in a comradely fashion. And just as Johnny opened his mouth to speak a voice behind him stilled the words on his lips.

“Hands up,” it said harshly. ‘‘Pit’em up quick. I’ll drop the first one that gets fussy.”

Johnny’s head turned slowly while his hands obeyed. He stared into the unwavering muzzle of a rifle. The man behind it was Walter Gage. Backing him, a few feet to one side, with a shotgun, stood Riggs, one of the Fajnir

Johnny saw Jess go white. Harper’s teeth set together. His lips drew back in a snarl.

But all three knew by instinct that a move for a weapon would be fatal. Gage’s cold gray eye, his cool indifference, was a promise of that. Johnny rose to his feet, hands high, angry and helpless. The man with the shotgun went over Harper and then Johnny and took their belt guns.

“Now march,” Gage ordered. “Follow this other fellow. I’m behind you. Don’t get gay unless you want to be punctured.”

Riggs led them down, across the creek into a path that came out at the house. Gage marshaled them into the kitchen, left Riggs on guard, and passed into the front room. He remained there some minutes. They could hear the indistinct burble of voices. Gage returned. “Chase yourself back up the hill,” he said to Riggs. “We’re going to put ’em in with the rest.”

KROM a benchlike shelf of rock the three watched

Walter Gage and his shotgun attendant vanish outward by the beam of the electric torch Gage carried. When that light flicked its last on the clammy walls, and the low tunnel of the water-floored exit became a gloomy void they still sat silent, staring about them.

Under gun escort they had come to the upper end. Back of them the Cave of the Bats rose in abrupt walls, crevices, great masses of broken rock. Its roof rose high overhead, a Gothic nightmare of irregular arches, distorted girders, jutting points, deep shadows. Up in those shadows lurked thousands of bats. The place was immense. It dwarfed them by its lofty spaces. Down the middle of its uneven floor murmured the little stream.

Between them and the cave mouth a fire burned. In its ruddy nimbus figures moved, cast grotesque shadows; dozens of them; Chinese coolies in blue dungarees; curious, animal-faced creatures. Their low singsong voices rose and fell, echoing away into the farthest gloom. Bags of rice, copper pots, stacks of firewood were piled on a ledge beyond the fire. Chinese sat cross-legged, lay on matting, moved softly about. Without exception each turned at intervals to stare at the three Europeans.

There were fifty or more Chinese between them and the exit. When Gage marched them past the coolies and left them he beckoned one Chinese and gave him a bit of paper. The man glanced at it, looked at the three prisoners, addressed a few sentences to his fellow Mongolians. He nodded comprehension.

The pantomime needed no interpreter. They knew that the dozens of Chinese constituted a guard and watch to see that they did not reach that exit. Harper tested that as soon as Gage disappeared. He walked forward. A Chinese rose, barred the way, motioned him back. Harper took another step or two. The man shook his head, drew a knife and made the suggestive motion of throat cutting. Harper shrugged his shoulders, returned and sat down.

Jess moved nearer to Johnny.

He bade her sit still and himself slowly drew back until he was out of the faint fire glow, lost in the gloom. No Chinese moved. They stared impassively. That was all.

Johnny remained hidden in that obscurity for nearly fifteen minutes. Then he materialized out of the blackness and resumed his seat. Jess huddled up close to him. One of her hands groped for him. He could feel a tremor shake her, an involuntary shudder.

“Scared?”

She nodded. “We’re trapped.”

Johnny smiled faintly. He said nothing. His smile expanded, grew into a chuckle.

She could see his face. Harper stared at him. Jessie’s own features registered both wonder and disapproval at this ,v

unseemly merriment. But ' »

Johnny only looked at them and continued to laugh softly to himself.

“What’s the joke?” Harper growled. “If there’s anything to snicker about, pass it along.”

“They think they’ve got us,” Johnny lowered his tone discreetly.

“Haven’t they? It kinda looks like that to me,” Harper muttered.

Johnny shook his head.

“We can walk out of here whenever we want to,” he said quietly.

“At the upper end?” Jess asked.

“Uh-huh. Sort of a chimney back of us. It’s hard to locate in that pitch dark. But I knew it was there among those pilar sort of rocks. I found it

long ago. And I managed to find it again without a light. Quite a climb.”

“Maybe they’ll be layin’ for us to bat us on the head if we show up there,” Harper said pessimistically.

“No,” Johnny declared in a confident tone. “If they knew about that opening they’d have it blocked, I think. One man could roll enough rocks in there in a few minutes to make it tight as a drum. I went up till I could see light. It’s open.”

“Let’s get out, then,” Jess breathed. “This gives me the creeps.”

“Too chancy,” Johnny negated. “That bird with the shotgun is probably doing a sort of perambulating guard outside. They’ll be keeping a good lookout. We ought to have thought of them doing that and we wouldn’t have been taken by surprise. It’s better to wait until dark.”

TTE LOOKED at his watch. It was near five o’clock.

^ Four hours to dark. It was a long wait. But if they could get clear they knew enough now to get action, to lay a trap that would clamp prison jaws on every man connected with this undertaking. They could deal with these first and then with the crew of the West by Aorth when she returned. That she would return went without saying. Here was her cargo—a valuable freight it could be delivered past the immigration barrier.

They talked in discreetly lowered voices of the course to follow once clear. Get back to the launch in Peek-aboo. Arm themselves with rifles. Return and nab Gage,

Riggs, the elderly Quong Sing, and whomever else they could gather in. Put them in the Cave of Bats. Stop up Johnny’s secret exit and post a guard at the creek mouth. Then lie low for the yacht. Thus Johnny outlined the programme. Harper agreed, indorsed it ; he smarted under the humiliation of being worsted in the very first brush.

“None of these guys will get the drop on me again,” he said significantly. And Johnny, knowing Harper’s record, kept his thoughts to himself. Harper’s reactions would be instantaneous and positive from now on. In any doubtful situation he would move first. He had the law at his back and these men were outside the law.

The hours dragged by. Once for a time the fire burned low. The gloom deepened. It was easy to imagine vague, monstrous shapes in that catacomb. Feet shuffled near, shuffled away. That curious mixture of whine and snarl and grunt that serves the Chinese for oral communication would wax to a crescendo over something and die away to a murmur. Sometimes it would cease altogether and the silence was more oppressive, more sinister than the sound.

But beyond staring at the trio with manifest curiosity, even to the point of coming up in groups of three and four to gaze at them, none of the coolies made a move. When Johnny Akhorn and Harper grew aware that the sweepings of Canton stared not at them but at the woman, they kept their own counsel and surreptitiously gathered at their feet a pile of loose stones of a size convenient to throw.

Johnny longed impatiently for darkness to fall outside. It wasn’t particularly pleasant to anticipate what might happen in the Cave of the Bats. Those low-browed, slanteyed creatures with their queer yammerings and strange, penetrating smells, were not reassuring.

In time they judged it must be dark outside. Little by little in the last half hour they drew farther into the shadow and marked with satisfaction that the coolies ceased to stare after the figures they could no longer see. Many of them were asleep on their bits of matting.

Johnny led the way. They moved in a chain, linked by hands. Instinct, a vivid sense of direction, location, the feel of the damp rocks, alone guided Johnny. He worked his way at last to a funnel lifting steeply upward with rough, jagged sides.

They had to climb, hauling themselves up by fingers and toes, inches at a time. Finally, at a point where the opening narrowed so that it was a squeeze for Johnny Akhorn’s broad shoulders, he bent and whispered for Jess to look up. A lonestarglimmeredfarabove,

as at midday one may see a star shine in the blue from the bottom of a deep well.

In another five minutes they crawled clear through a tangle of blackberry vines and stood erect in the cool night. An hour later they came downhill to Peek-a-boo Cove and whistled the engineer ashore with a rowboat. The man had coffee ready. He had been worried, but hopeful enough to have food waiting.

“Now!” said Harper grimly, when they had finished eating. “Now for a surprise party.”

His first act on boarding the launch had been to darken every port that could emit light, to lay out three loaded rifles. Now from one locker he brought forth cartridge belts, from another half a dozen pairs of handcuffs, manacles of polished steel. These he divided, two pairs to each roan. He discovered a pocket flash light for each.

“Let’s get back at ’em before they find we’re loose,” said he. “You better stick to this boat, young woman,” he told Jess bluntly.

“I’m not tired. I’m not afraid. I may be useful,” Jess returned quietly. “If you have a spare six-shooter I’d like to have it. I’m as deeply interHead W i n d s

Continued on page 54

Continued from page 21

ested in this whole business as you are.” Harper looked at Johnny. That gentleman shrugged his shoulders.

“Better give her a gun if you have one,” said he. “She’s bound to be in at the finish, I guess.”

Harper found a revolver for her. Thus equipped the four set out through the woods once more. It was dark everywhere but doubly dark in the forest. They traveled slowly, but they did not stray wide of their course and presently they again drew near Hidden Bay.

This time they moved quietly but boldly down on the house itself. It was after eleven o’clock. Light shone in kitchen and living room. With strategy determined beforehand Johnny posted himself where he commanded one side of the house, and could back Harper. Jess and the engineer covered the other sides. Then the constable strode up the porch and kicked open the front door. Stepping quickly aside from the glare of the light, with his rifle lifted for action, he called: “You’re surrounded. The first man that moves gets it plenty.”

The lamplight showed Walter Gage, Riggs, Quong Lung and the man Boom playing cards. They sat stiff, rigid at attention for a second. Then Gage twisted in his seat to face the door and remark angrily:

“What sort of wild stuff is that to pull on a quiet ranch house?”

But his jaw slackened when he recognized Harper who, with his eyes grown accustomed to the light, now stepped into the doorwaj. Not one of them made a move under the muzzle of the constable’s rifle.

“Don’t get gay unless you want to be punctured,” he mocked Gage with his own words of the afternoon. “Stand up there, every one of you.”

They rose.

“Face the wall. Put your hands on the wall above your heads.”

They obeyed; a little reluctantly, but they obeyed.

“All right. You come in, Akhorn. The rest of you keep a sharp lookout,” Harper called.

Johnny went over them for weapons. Every man, even to the moon-faced elderly Chinaman, had a pistol in his pocket. Harper’s boldness had either paralyzed them, or they had lost their nerve in the pinch.

“Now, then, forward march,” Johnny said, when he had gone through the lot. “Hike ahead of us up to the Cave of the Bats. See if you can get out the way we did.”

Halfway up the path Walter Gage snarled over his shoulder:

“How in hell did you get out?”

“That,” said Johnny, “is for you to discover.”

Continued on page 52 Continued on page 50 Behind Johnny lighting the path with ¡ his electric torch came Jess and the engineer. Once the captured quartet had been forced to make that stooping entry into the Cave of the Bats after being warned that the first one who poked his head hack out would be shot without parley. ¡ Johnny said to Harper:

“You fellows stay here. I’ll run up on top and plug that hole with rocks. They probably wouldn’t find it, but I’ll take j no chances.”

In half an hour he came back.

“They’d need a box of dynamite to I blast their way out there now,” he announced. “So far, so good.”

They left the engineer on guard behind ¡ a boulder where in safe cover he commanded the entrance to the cavern. Harper would relieve him by and by, and after that Johnny would take his turn. At dawn they would send Jess to call in the fisherman and O’Connel. They conceived themselves in absolute command of the I situation, and the thought gave them a pleasant glow of satisfaction.

“Now let’s go down and go through ! that house to see if we can find anything that’s worth looking into,” Johnny suggested. “We’ve got away with one exciting stroke of business to-night.”

They were destined to another before long. As they came around the corner of the house Johnny Akhorn stopped so suddenly that Jessie and Harper collided with him and each other.

“Hark!” Johnny warned. “Listen!”

In the hushed night there rose a faint, far thrumming sound. It drew nearer. The land lay wrapped in the dark. The bay, ringed by forested hills, appeared as a slight paleness. On this paler sheen a dim shape began to loom in approach. The surface rippled away from it in sinuous undulations. No light showed. Yet they knew it for a vessel. There was the low hiss of water parted by a stem, and that rhythmic humming. They stood listening, straining their eyes.

“It’s the West by Aorth,” Johnny I whispered at last. “I’d know the beat of I that Diesel exhaust if I heard it in my sleep.”

GOOD!” Harper grunted. “Now for the grand slam.”

Johnny felt a little tremor shake the j girl whose slender body momentarily pressed against him.

For himself he felt only a rather savage j exultation. Here was his ship. Aboard j j her would be the man who had marooned ! him and stolen his command. And he would get them both. He never doubted that. He would get them both! Even in that moment of anticipated triumph Johnny’s perceptive, rather analytical mind found time to wonder if his eagerness to lock horns with Dewey Saunders had anything to do with his strangely mixed feeling about the girl by his side.

By that time the darkened yacht, guiltless of running light or yellow porthole, was feeling her way in to the rude float. She had slowed down. There was a thrash of water as the propeller reversed its thrust to check her way. And Johnny muttered:

“Here, we better be under cover in case they use the searchlight.”

He darted across the comparative open surrounding the house. Once in the screen of a thicket higher than their heads he moved softly to a point within a few yards of the improvised landing. They squatted in a growth of ferns to watch and wait.

They sat within twenty feet of the path that ran from beach to house. Their eyes, grown used to the darkness, could distinguish men moving on deck as the yacht nosed in beside the floating logs. They could hear low, curt orders. In a few minutes her mooring lines were fast. The big Diesel gave a last expiring whuff! The heavy night silence shut down again.

Wish O Connel and that fisherman were here,” Harper whispered.

“We’re enough,” Johnny whispered in his ear. “One or two of them are bound to come ashore. I’ll bet they’re wondering right now why nobody has come from the house. Somebody is going to come off the yacht pretty soon. That splits ’em up. The minute they land we duck down to the float and climb aboard.”

“All right. We’ll take a chance. But mind you,” Harper warned, “no foolin’.

If they show fight, shoot first.” Johnny nodded.

Continued en page 54

Continued, from page 52

The float and the yacht beside it formed a single blurred shape. Two figures presently detached themselves from this vague formlessness, came noiselessly up the path.

“Better get these birds,” Harper counseled.

“No. We want the ship first,” Johnny pointed out. “We have the whole works in hand once we get possession of her.”

The two men passed. The lamps still burned in living room and kitchen. The front door stood slightly ajar, showing a thin streak of light. They saw it open under one man’s hand.

“You stay right here,” Johnny instructed Jess. “If we get the worst of it you’ll have to take to the brush. Get back to Peek-a-boo at daylight. We’ll try to get there, too.”

The girl nodded mutely. They left her huddled in the ferns and stole down to the beach. The West by North lay dark, silent, lifeless.

“Look,” Johnny whispered. “Chances are the rest are below, or inside the deck houses. There’s a breeze off the land. The tide’s on the ebb. If we can cast her loose she’ll drift out. Then the two ashore can’t pile on to help if there’s trouble. Savvy?

“If we walk out on the float the fellows aboard will probably think it’s their own two men come back. You cast off the bow line. I’ll loose the stern. Then run aft to me and we’ll pile aboard.”

“Right-o.”

They strode, noiseless in rubber-soled yachting shoes, out on the float. No one challenged. Harper stooped over the line fast to a stick of timber. Johnny walked aft a handbreadth from the familiar topsides and let go the stern line. Rifle in hand he waited. Almost immediately Harper flitted back to join him.

“Let’s give her a shove,” Johnny whispered. “If nobody shows, we go up over the stern and sneak to the wheelhouse. From there we command the whole top deck.”

They put their joint weight against the heavy rubstrake. She moved. They heaved themselves quickly up over the pipe rail. Without let or hindrance they tiptoed along decks and gained the wheelhouse, silent and dark save a pale luminosity on the face of the compass in its binnacle of polished brass.

There they waited secure in their advantage. Seconds grew to minutes. The men ashore could not now reach the yacht’s deck. The tide shifted her. The gentle pressure of the offshore airs eased her along. She drew twice her length clear of the float.

And then a gun cracked ashore, one thin, sharp report. Nothing more. No voice. No cry. Only from below decks came the pad of hurrying feet.

Johnny Akhorn’s heart beat a little faster. That shot on shore startled him, made him eager to get this unpleasant business over. Otherwise he was coldly determined.

“Here they come,” Harper muttered. “If they bunch up we step out and throw down on them. See? If they scatter you take the ones aft and I’ll get ’em forward. Don’t parley. If they don’t put their hands up quick, shoot. We got to get them or they’ll get us. This is no parlor game.”

The yacht’s crew boiled out of the forward companionway, McNaughton, the engineer of the burned Fafnir, another man—three all told. They rushed to the rail.

“What the hell!” McNaughton swore. “We’re adrift.”

He turned, to look down a rifle barrel.

“Put ’em up,” Harper grunted.

“Quick!”

McNaughton put up his hands. So did the others, instinctively, almost automatically.

“Any more below?”

McNaughton shook his head. But he lied, for as Harper stepped forward hauling the steel bracelets from his pocket a gun cracked at the hooded forward companionway.

Johnny fired at the flash, just as in his hunting days he had often fired at the flash of a leaping deer. The bullet went home. There was a thud, a stifled groan, and silence. And in that hesitant moment McNaughton dived at Harper headfirst, like a butting ram.

Harper went down. Into that scrimmage on the dusky deck Johnny dared not fire. He did not know which was Mc-

Naughton and which Harper; and there were the other two to watch lest they draw weapons.

“Keep your hands up!” He menaced them with the rifle.

It happened in a breath. McNaughton was for escape, however, not for battle. He shook himself free from the constable, cleared the rail with a flying leap. The splash of his body in the water found Harper erect, rifle in hand.

“Watch them,” he gritted at Johnny.

The moon had cleared the coast range while they lurked in the wheelhouse. Dense shore shadows still shrouded the West by N orth. But it was now a luminous sort of shade. The surface of the bay shone.

Overside the rings and bubbles marked plainly where McNaughton went down. Harper leaned tense over the rail, bis rifle cocked, ready. All at once he cried:

“Swim back here, you. You hear me? Swim back or I shoot.”

Johnny out of one corner of his eye saw McNaughton dive instantly. A few more strokes underwater and he would reach the float. Suddenly Harper fired. Once —twice—pow, pow! The echoes woke, staccato. For a second or two something floundered, thrashed water. That ceased. Harper turned to Johnny.

“Got him,” hè announced laconically. “That’s two of ’em outa commish.”

He handcuffed the captured pair to the foremast by the simple expedient of putting their arms around the mast and shackling them together.

“They can play ring-around-a-rosy till we get through,” he remarked sardonically. “Unless they’re husky enough to tear that twelve-inch stick out by the roots.”

“That bird pretty near got me,” he said to Johnny. “I felt the wind of his bullet. Good thing you’re quick with a gun. We’re not in the clear yet, with them two ashore. Let’s look-see if there’s anybody laying low around this packet.”

The man who had fired on them lay dead at the foot of the companion stairs, a revolver beside him. It was Sparks Otherwise the crew’s quarters were empty.

Harper stood guard on deck while Johnny explored the engine room and the lazaret and after hold. These, too, were empty. Forward of the engine-room bulkhead were four staterooms and a bath When he went down into this, the real living quarters of the yacht, through a stairway in the deck saloon, Johnny Akhorn’s orderly seaman’s soul filled with anger and disgust.

The place was in a mess, a filthy mess, the berths a foul litter of once spotless bedding. It reeked with that strange odor inseparable from Chinese. Johnny could easily gather that down there coolies had been stowed like sardines in a tin can.

But the mess was speedily banished from his irind when he entered No. 4 stateroom. Some instinct of caution made him overlook no corner. In a wardrobe closet, huddled behind hanging clothes, manifesting every symptom of downright panic, he found Mr. B Jessop Allen.

Whether Uncle Ben expected to be shot or scalped, made to walk the plank or be boiled in oil, Johnny didn’t trouble to inquire. He was the last of the gang to be accounted for—unless they had acquired re-enforcements. Johnny hauled him to the upper deck and shackled him with his companions to the mast. Then he called Harper to the ground tackle at the bow.

“We’ve got her,” said he. “I want to put an anchor down to hold her where she

“Right-o,” said Harper jubilantly. “Then we’ll go ashore and finish the job."

Johnny said nothing to that. He knew the attempt must be made, but he looked for no success. The man he most wanted, the brains and force of the whole undertaking, was on shore. The shooting and commotion aboard ship would have warned the stupidest that the jig was up

There was a possibility that Dewey Saunders and his bower Helby might in desperation try to retake the Wesf by North. They were more likely to take cover, on the assumption that a raid in force was on. That single shot on shore puzzled Johnny: troubled him a little, but not greatly. So far as he was concerned, once he got Jessie Allen aboard, the job was done. He would be in possession of his vessel. The authorities could deal with Continued on page 56 Continued from page 54 piracy and Chinese smuggling as they saw fit.

The anchor went down with a rattle and splash. Harper and Johnny manned the i davits and slung a dinghy overside. With j oars in hand Harper paused. The moon had cleared the hills. Hidden Bay spread silver bright.

“Once we pull clear of the yacht they can see us plain as day,” he said reflectively. “How are we going to get ashore without being potted?”

“We’ll have to take a chance,” Johnny replied. “I have to get Miss Allen. And there’s your engineer on watch.”

“Suppose, once we’re ashore,” Harper continued, “them birds spot this dinghy, row out and start the engine. They could j slip anchor and make a break for outside.” i “I’ve got a key bolt out of the fuel j governor in my pocket,” Johnny told him. “They couldn’t get a solitary puff out of that engine.”

“Right-o,” Harper conceded cheerfully. “You’re there with the headwork. I was just trying to figure what might happen Let’s take a chance on the shore proposition.”

Johnny drove the dinghy with quick strokes. They reached the float without challenge. Once on the beach he bore straight for the place where they had left Jess. He made no mistake in the spot The flattened ferns marked where they had squatted. But she was gone. He stood uneasy, troubled, a vista of ugly possibilities crowded his mind and just a faint touch of suspicion—that strange distrust that rose like a poisonous fog whenever he was forced to couple Jessie Allen and Dewey Saunders in his thoughts “Let’s take a look over the house.” Harper suggested.

THEY approached cautiously, wary of ambush. The front door stood wide The lamp glowed on its table. Moving ! to a vantage point Johnny looked in.

A strange Aght met his gaze. Dewey Saunders stood with hands uplifted as though he invoked Heaven. Beside him Sam Helby sat on a chair, his elbows resting on a table, the fingers of one hand clutching the fleshy part of his other arm His lean, dark face was twisted with pain with something else that Johnny took to ; be fear. Only when Johnny nudged Harper and walked boldly to the door did he grasp the situation.

Jessie Allen’s diminutive figure was outlined in the door space between kitchen and front room. Her right hand rested against the door casing and it held the I police revolver trained steady as a rock on the men. Helby’s shirt sleeve was stained with blood. Johnny grasped the import of that single shot.

“Handcuff ’em,” Johnny said to Harper.

“You’re darned right I’ll handcuff ’em,” the constable growled. He set down his rifle and drew out the irons.

“Put down your hands,” he ordered

Saunders.

Dewey fixed his gaze on Johnny Akhorn the moment he entered the room. Now without even looking at Harper, without once deflecting that unwavering stare of hatred his hands lowered slowly until they were level with his breast. Then with one swift motion he plucked a gun from the Texas scabbard under his armpit, beneath his coat, and fired.

It was as swift as a flash of lightning. That movement of his hand outstripped thought itself

Johnny felt something strike him in the breast with paralyzing force. He stood erect, his brain crystal clear, but his body numbed, rigid, incapable of stirring a j muscle. With a curious mental clarity, a I strange detachment from any emotion j except surprise, he heard a second report I echo the sound of Dewey’s shot, saw the j man droop, drop the pistol ami sway with j stiffly outstretched fingers, crumple at I last in a sprawling heap.

He saw Jessie with her gun dribbling the faintest wreath of smoke look down at Dewey, across at him with a questioning agony in her eyes. He saw her suddenly put a hand to her face and half turn as if to shut out the sight.

And then he felt himself go floating off I into a vast emptiness, in a sort of luminous mist that closed in about him. It was restful, soothing, delightful to escape in I that manner from the pain that burned ; like a flame in his breast, and Johnny gave himself up gladly to that foggy sensation which rapidly deepened into a black cloud that blotted everything out. CAPTAIN JOHNNY AKHORN cherished some very uncertain recollections of the succeeding hours. It was a hazy period. He felt himself being moved. He heard voices, saw flickers of light, felt the touch of hands. He was aware foggily of motion. Once—and that recollection was clearest of all, as the memory of pain is always clear—he was conscious of someone exploring his chest cavity with something that felt like a red-hot poker.

He came finally out of this shadowy borderland with a strange feeling of relief. Except for an obvious weakness, a lassitude of his body, all his faculties were as alert as if he had but wakened from a healthy sleep.

He felt very little pain. He opened his eyes. He lay in a hospital bed. The sun shone in a curtained window. A rubicund individual in spotless white ducks, with a red carnation jauntily in his lapel, gazed blandly down at him. A uniformed nurse stood by.

“Well, how do you feel?” the doctor inquired.

Johnny’s throat and mouth felt like the Sahara. That burning thirst was his first claimant, physical sensation, his first definite want. When the nurse supplied him with a sip of water, he grew conscious of other bodily disabilities.

But his bodily pains were not so overwhelming as his curiosity. He started agonizing pangs if he moved his arms quickly. Otherwise he felt well enough. And he wanted to know a lot of things.

Between his last recollection and the present lay a blank which he wanted filled at once. He surmised that neither the doctor nor the nurse could close that gap. So he forbore question.

The medico told him that his wound had produced tremendous temporary shock, but that since he was strong as a horse he had rallied quickly. In a short time he would be on his feet again. Having delivered himself of this, the doctor went away.

Johnny stared out the window He could see chimneys, bits of street. He could hear the whir of passing motors. Across the roofs on a slope that pitched north to a broad harbor filled with shipping he got a glimpse of mountaintops that were familiar. He knew where he was but he wondered how he got there. And while he was wondering a telephone on a stand by his bed began to buzz. The nurse took down the receiver.

“Yes, this is room nine,” she said. “Oh, splendidly. Quite conscious, and not suffering at all.”

Johnny grunted. It seemed a trifle too optimistic to him. The nurse continued: “Oh, I’m afraid not to-day. Excitement of any kind is bad for a patient, you know, and visitors are always exciting. Well, you might ask Doctor Hall. Oh, yes, he’s well out of danger. In fact—”

“Some one wants to see me?” Johnny cut into what he considered unseemly garrulousness.

“Yes. A lady,” the nurse told him with a smirk.

“Who is she?” He had a hope—but there were women in Vancouver who might inquire for him.

The nurse asked the caller’s name. “Give me that ’phone,” Johnny commanded with such determination that the nurse gave in under protest. It cost him a pang to shift his arms, but he didn’t mind that.

“Hello, Jess.”

That well-remembered voice answered him over the wire. How was he? Could she do anything? Was there any one he wanted to see?

“Yes. You,” Johnny answered briefly. 'When can I come up?”

“Right now. Come running. I can’t hold this ’phone long. Hurts. And there are a lot of things I want to talk about.” “I'm only a couple of blocks away. I’ll be right there. By-by.”

Johnny gave up the telephone. He was glad to lie still. His chest was sore. The nurse fussed. She demurred against visitors. The doctor—

“I’m the doctor so far as this is concerned,” Johnny shut her off. “When Miss Allen comes show her in or there’ll be a vacant cot in this hospital right away. I’m not too sick to walk out of here, if I can’t have what I want.”

‘Even if it’s bad for you,” the nurse railed. “That’s just like a man.” Nevertheless she shook up Johnny’s pillow and made him comfortable, and when Jess walked in she withdrew with a knowing smile. JOHNNY looked at his visitor. He had never seen her in city clothes. The gray tailored suit and tight little round bonnet made her seem smaller than ever. With her round, piquant face and big, dark eyes, she looked like a little girl, demurely swinging her tiny feet that were inches off the floor when she sat in an ordinary chair. But that impression of childishness was an illusion, Johnny knew; the sort of illusion that led a man astray, since it made him want to cherish and protect her and she neither wanted the one nor needed the other. He was so intent that he didn’t speak.

“Well,” Jess echoed the doctor’s inquiry at last. “How do you feel?”

It was on the tip of his tongue to reply truthfully, “Like the very devil,” but he chose instead to say: “Oh, I’m all right. How about you? What happened after I faded out of the picture?”

“It’s all over but the shouting,” she told him rather soberly. “The trouble ended when you and Dewey went down. We put you and Helby aboard the West by North. I broke his arm when I shot him while you were raiding the yacht.

“O’Connel and the fisherman came as soon as they heard the shots. Harper knows wireless. He got Point Grey station with the yacht’s outfit and started the provincial police moving. They locked Helby in a stateroom, left the others shackled to the mast, left O’Connel and the fisherman to guard the Cave of the Bats. Harper found the governor bolt in your coat pocket and his engineer started the motor.

“We left Hidden Bay at once. We scraped bottom once or twice in Whispering Pass. We got in here about six this morning and brought you right to the hospital. Harper ’phoned me a while ago that he had made a flying trip with a steamer chartered by the authorities and had brought in all those Chinese and those three we put in the cave. The steamer Albacore is under arrest. They’re all in jail but Gentry—and he will be as soon as they can get to Sentinel Island. McNaughton is dead. Sparks is dead.” “What about Saunders?”

“Dead, too. I think he was dead when he hit the floor,” she muttered.

“Was Uncle Ben still gibbering when he went off to clink?” Johnny asked. “He sure gave a grand imitation of a deflated tire when I found him hiding below. What’ll be done with the bunch, do you suppose? And did you have a chance to use that club you wanted on Uncle Ben to make him come through with your money?”

“He was a burst balloon, wasn’t he? I’m very unfortunate in my relatives, I’m afraid. No, Johnny, I’ll never get anything much out of Uncle Ben. He’s done. He confessed his sins to me and an agent from the United States department of justice in jail this afternoon.

“It was a very pretty plot. Uncle Ben and Dewey cooked it up to recoup themselves for losses on other crooked ventures that went awry. And Dewey doublecrossed him near the end. The Albacore brought over a hundred and ten Chinese coolies for them. But what was worse, they had a big shipment of cocaine, as well. The big manufacture of coke is in Germany, you know. It’s simple to transport it from Europe to any Asiatic port.

“Well, they got it off the Albacore all right. The steamer came down and the West by North met her right outside Hidden Bay and transferred the Chinese to the Cave of the Bats. Then she loaded half the Chinese and made a run to a safe landing somewhere near Seattle. They got a thousand dollars per head for delivering them. Uncle Ben swears that Dewey must have collected at least sixty thousand for the cocaine, from the Seattle dope ring.

“We got a lot of inside information that is going to slow up the illicit drug business on the coast. But Dewey deposited all the loot in a Seattle bank, and calmly told Uncle Ben he’d split when he got good and ready. All Uncle Ben’s resources are gone. It took the last money they had to finance this deal, and mine went with it. He’s surely a crawling specimen. He’s going to turn State’s evidence in the hope of getting off-—if the Canadian authorities return them to the United States for trial.”

“Will they?” Johnny wondered.

“I think so—on the principle of letting everybody scotch his own snakes. But there’s enough against them either side of the line to bury them in the penitentiary for life.”

Continued on page 61

“Yes,” Johnny muttered agreement. “It cost enough life. It was just luck none of us got it in the neck. Your friend Saunders certainly meant to get me.”

“He’s dead,” she murmured. “Let him be.”

Her voice was troubled, wistful, and she shivered once as if the memory of that lamplit room disturbed her. Johnny staring thoughtfully, visualized it for himself with appalling vividness. He saw Jessie’s eyes fill. She blinked at him, and he looked at her silently, soberly.

“You look at me as if I were a murderer,” she reproached.

“Good Lord! no, Jess,” he protested. “I wasn’t thinking anything of the sort. You had to shoot, just as you would have to shoot down a wolf that attacked you. He was a wolf. He would have bumped us all off if you hadn’t bumped him.”

“I didn’t really,” she said. “I meant to. I thought I had. But I was getting shaky. I missed him. Harper fired at the same time. His shot killed Dewey.”

“Then why the weeps?” Johnny asked irritably. “He had it coming and he got it. I don’t see you shedding any tears over putting a slug through Helby, for instance/

“That’s different,” she whispered. “It would have been an everlasting horror to me to have killed Dewey.”

“Why?”

“He was my husband—once,” she murmured.

Johnny blinked. It was like a blow in the face. Yet it made certain things a little clearer.

“I never lived with him,” Jess continued moodily. “I was an impressionable kid, and Dewey was both fascinating and persuasive. There was a certain amount of opposition at home. So we ran away and were married. But the ink wasn’t dry on the marriage certificate before my father appeared.

“He was a real person, that dad of mine. He was very, very wise. He had a way of getting things done without stirring up a great fuss. He made Dewey and me promise not to see each other except in public for one year. Then, if we still wished to go on, he wouldn’t object. He was killed in a motor accident before the year was out.

“But in that time I’d learned a lot about my husband-in-name-only, and I knew it wouldn’t do. But Dewey didn’t see it that way. He was determined to have me. I was partly running away from him and his importunities when I first came to Hidden Bay—as well as taking a vacation from this job that I’d already been at for two years.”

“Why didn’t you get a divorce?” Johnny grumbled.

“I did what amounted to the same; I got the marriage annulled,” she said wearily. “But that didn’t make any difference to Dewey. He always declared that I belonged to him—and that he would some day have me. Y ou see, Dewey .was the sort of man who is very persistent *in trying to get what he wants, and who doesn’t value it very much once he’s got it. He hated to be beaten. Probably he liked me as well as it was possible for him to like any one woman. At any rate he was a trouble to me. I was always meeting him and being plagued by him.”

“Yet you went away from Hidden Bay with him as soon as he crooked his finger after—after—”

Johnny couldn’t finish. Something swelled in his throat and choked him. Something in his breast hurt more than his wound.

“Not with him, Johnny,” she said quickly. “He had my mother always on his side, for one thing. He had money. W$ hadn’t. Three of us had to live on the income from the funds my father left to me, and that was a good deal less than we were used to.

“Mamma and Dewey’s sister were aboard his yacht when she steamed into Hidden Bay. They had come for me. There would have been more or less disagreeableness if I’d refused to go home with them. And—and—” She hesitated a little. “I’m trying to be frank, Johnny. I’d got in pretty deep at Hidden Bay myself. I was getting afraid of where I was going. You were a nice boy, but you were only a boy then, and you’d never been out in the world. I had. I didn’t know—sometimes I— Oh, fiddlesticks!” she broke off. “What’s the use me trying to explain anything like that? I’d been

through the mill even then, and maybe I’d got a little hardened.

“You’ve accused me more than once this summer of being self-centered and fickle—and several other things. But don’t you see that it would have been rather terrible for me to have shot Dewey? And,” she concluded, getting to her feet, “I’m afraid all this isn’t good for you. I should never have excited you by talking about all this. It’s all over and done anyway.”

“I suppose so,” Johnny muttered. “What are you going to do now? Go back south?”

“I expect. Same old thing in the same old way,” she managed to smile again. “I’ve been a sort of prop for a long time. Mamma, who is a rather neurotic sort of a person, has very conveniently managed to get herself married to a moderately wealthy man, I find, since I’ve been on this trip. So the fact that Uncle Ben has got away with my little inheritance does not matter so much. I earn a fair salary. I can live well on my pay and still save something for a rainy day.”

“And you’re through up here now?”

She nodded.

“I’ve often looked at you this summer and thought to myself that you were about as self-centered a piece of humanity as I’d ever encountered.” Johnny tried to make his tone matter of fact, but it cost him an effort. “I guess maybe I was wrong. I think maybe it’s just that you’re self-sufficient. There’s a difference.”

Jess stood beside his bed, a trim, dainty figure. Her dark eyes regarded him seriously.

“I’ve had to be,” she said simply, convincingly. “I’ve had to stand on my own feet, or fall pretty hard. I’ve grown used to it. Even if things go badly I get along. I’d rather laugh than cry, any time.”

“You’re a funny little fellow, Jess, old dear,” Johnny said with a sudden, inexplicable wave of tenderness. “Will you come and see me again before you go away?”

“If you want me to,” she answered evenly.

“Do you want to?”

“If you want me to, I do,” she repeated, faintly smiling.

“You’rethe mostcasual person I know,” he said, smothering a little touch of resentment. “You wander into a man’s life and make him love you. You drop out, apparently not caring a damn. You come wandering back after a long time, just as casually. And you’ll go again the same way, I suppose.”

THE red flashed in Jessie’s cheeks. Her finger plucked nervously at the white counterpane. She looked down at Johnny, with those two brilliant dabs of color widening on her cheeks. She stood silent for many seconds, and Johnny suddenly put his hand over his eyes to shut out the sight of her. She turned away; walked to the door; stopped with her hand on the knob; then very slowly came back to his bedside.

“You’re a proud and stubborn devil, aren’t you?” she breathed. The touch of passion in her voice made Johnny start. But he lay quiet, covering his face. He wouldn’t look at her.

“Listen to me, Johnny Akhorn. I didn’t go away casually. And I didn’t come back so casually as you think. I meant to come back. I fibbed to you that night on shore, the night you swam ashore.

“I followed you because I wanted to talk to you. I knew you all the time. I knew you were in command of the West by hiorth before I came at all. It doesn’t matter how I knew. And I knew what you were thinking when you sat on that block in the moonlight. When I asked you to kiss me, it wasn’t just a whim. If you weren’t a—”

But Johnny Akhorn’s hand came off his eyes and clutched her so that she stopped short in the middle of the sentence.

And when the prim, middle-aged nurse quietly opened the door some few minutes later she was scandalized to find a dangerously wounded man holding between his hands the tear-stained but happily smiling face of a young woman on her knees beside his bed. In fact, said dangerously wounded man was in the act of bestowing a kiss upon said smiling countenance. And when they looked up neither seemed particularly to care what the nurse thought. They really seemed to consider her an intruder.

The End